Many of us know Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss as the statuesque Harvard rowing twins who sued Mark Zuckerberg for ownership of Facebook.
That image — along with Justin Timberlake’s curly hair as Sean Parker (“a billion dollars is cool”) — was seared into the public consciousness by the 2010 movie The Social Network.
Since then, the Winklevii have cut their own path… one that potentially threatens Facebook itself.
The Winklevii scored a $65m legal settlement…
… against Zuckerberg in 2008. And, as reported by Forbes, they have since built a multibillion-dollar fortune with bets on Bitcoin and startups focused on a crypto/decentralized future:
- Bitcoin: The twins started investing in the crypto asset in 2012 when it was priced at $8. With the price now hovering at ~$58k, they turned a $10m bet into a $6B fortune.
- Gemini: In 2014, the twins founded cryptocurrency exchange Gemini, which trades 33 crypto assets. While much smaller than Coinbase, Forbes notes that the exchange could raise money at a $5B valuation.
- Nifty Gateway: In November 2019, they acquired Nifty Gateway, a non-fungible token (NFT) art marketplace that helped propel digital artist Beeple, who recently sold an NFT for $69m at a Christie’s auction. In March, Nifty Gateway processed 70% of the $188m in art sold across the top 7 NFT marketplaces.
- BlockFi: The twins backed this crypto startup, which lends money against crypto holding and just raised $350m at a $3B valuation.
- Protocol Labs: An open-source project that helps build decentralized services. One example is Filecoin, a decentralized computer storage system where users earn money by renting out their own storage space.
Winklevii companies make money from marketplace and trading fees
And not the monetization of personal information… like, say, Facebook. The twins’ portfolio doesn’t just have a different business model than Zuckerberg’s baby; it has a totally different operating philosophy.
“The idea of a centralized social network is just not going to exist 5 or 10 years in the future,” Tyler Winklevoss tells Forbes.
While this prediction sounds extreme, there is momentum towards stripping power away from the Big Tech platforms… especially after Donald Trump was wiped off the internet virtually overnight after the Capitol riots.
The Winklevoss bets are on a decentralized future, including a social network — BitClout — that resides on a blockchain and isn’t controlled by a single entity.
However it plays out, we’re ready for The Social Network II.